In the early days of our careers, when we're making real money for the first time in our life, it can be easy to fall prey to the temptation to accumulate "stuff": fancy watches, cars, houses, and the rest. Everyone has different reasons for doing it, like for their ego, to show off, or just because they like nice things. But there have been ample studies that show that the people with the most stuff aren't any happier than the rest of us. There simply is no correlation between accumulating stuff and happiness.
So what are we supposed to do when the holiday gift-giving season rolls around? What kind of gift does bring happiness, you might be wondering, especially for the person who already has everything? The answer is to give new experiences! Successful people know that pleasurable, unique life events they can have with their friends, family, and other interesting people are the best gifts.
Highly successful people have already achieved financial success and have most of what they want. Imagine what it might look and feel like to stop thinking about accumulating stuff and make the shift to accumulating experiences instead? Consider the commercial for the beer brand Dos Equis that features the world's most interesting man. Wouldn't you like to be able to share stories and memories with your loved ones about the amazing experiences you have lived through over the years rather than showing off a garage full of sports cars?
I know one family, for example, that has completely stopped giving each other holiday presents each year in lieu of scheduling a fantastic family adventure each year together instead. One year they gave each other a cruise to Alaska; the next year they went to Norway to ride bikes another year, a trip to 5 phenomenal baseball stadiums to see games. It doesn't matter what you choose because you'll be doing it together and you'll find that that time spent is far more rewarding that even the most expensive gifts and gadgets--and you won't even have to line-up in the cold the night before to get it!
I encourage you to apply this same concept to some of your everyday activities as well. For instance, I recently had a successful friend call me up and ask for some advice about a new consulting gig he was considering taking on. Specifically, he wondered how much he should charge the CEO of another company who wanted to hire him. My friend had recently sold his business for a handsome price, so he didn't really need the money. I told my friend I would think about it and get back to him.
As I thought about the situation, it finally hit me--he could ask for payment in experiences! Think about it: everyone has the ability to access unique experiences via their social network and relationships. Maybe they have a friend or a relative who works in the White House who could get you a west wing tour of the oval office few other visitors can access. Or maybe they happen to know a famous entertainer and could easily get you backstage passes to meet her. It could even be as simple as having an "in" with the chef at an amazing new restaurant that doesn't accept reservations. The point is that rather than trying to squeeze every extra dollar out of our business interactions, we can begin to look for new opportunities to enjoy unique experiences instead.
When I called my friend back and explained my idea, he was elated. It turns out that the CEO who wanted to hire him was a friend of his and this approach opened up an entire new way to approach their working relationship. The gig turned out so well, in fact, that my friend-turned-consultant has done the same thing again and again with the other clients he has been working with. At last count, he's been fly-fishing out in Jackson Hole, deep sea wreck diving in the Atlantic Ocean, quail hunting in Georgia and, best of all, he climbed to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro--all within that past year alone!
So the next time you're faced with the question of what you can get for the person who already has everything, consider creating a new experience with them instead. That's the kind of gift that you simply cannot put a price tag on.